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The Teacher declares that everything is meaningless. He begins reviewing his search for meaning, and his first conclusion is that wisdom is futile.

I.     The Man (1:1, 12): The author introduces himself as King David’s son—presumably Solomon—and notes that he once ruled over Israel.

II.     The Mission (1:13, 16)

A.     His quest (1:13) : Solomon devotes himself to searching out the purpose of life.

B.     His qualifications (1:16) : Because of his great wisdom and power, Solomon feels he possesses the necessary credentials to conduct this search.

III.     The Madness (1:2–11, 14–15, 17–18): A preliminary investigation quickly reveals some bitter truths about life.

A.     No real purpose (1:2–7, 14, 17): Life is futile and meaningless.

B.     No new thing (1:9–10): History merely repeats itself.

C.     No cure (1:15) : What is wrong cannot be righted.

D.     No lasting honor (1:11) : The dead are quickly forgotten.


Solomon tries to find meaning through various things.

I.     The King’s Delusions (2:1–10): Solomon travels down many roads in his search for peace and purpose. This includes:

A.     Pleasure (2:1–2)

B.     Alcohol (2:3)

C.     Great building projects (2:4a)

D.     The planting of vineyards (2:4b)

E.     The creation of beautiful parks with exotic trees (2:5–6)

F.     The accumulation of possessions, including:

1.     Human slaves (2:7a)

2.     Herds and flocks (2:7b)

3.     Silver and gold (2:8a)

4.     Gifted musicians (2:8b)

5.     Beautiful concubines (2:8c)

G.     A universal reputation (2:9)

H.     Total indulgence (2:10)

II.     The King’s Conclusions (2:11–26)

A.     The bitter truth (2:11–23)

1.     What Solomon finds (2:11–16)

a.     Everything is useless and empty (2:11) .

b.     Everyone must eventually die (2:12–16).

2.     What Solomon fears (2:17–23): He realizes that in most instances the achievements of good men are left to fools.

B.     The better truth (2:24–26): Be content with what you have, and enjoy your work!


Solomon views life from a human perspective and from God’s perspective.

I.     Earthly Events from a Human Perspective (3:1–14, 22)

A.     The categories (3:1–8): There is a proper time for all events.

1.     To be born and to die (3:2a)

2.     To plant and to harvest (3:2b)

3.     To kill and to heal (3:3a)

4.     To tear down and to rebuild (3:3b)

5.     To cry and to laugh (3:4a)

6.     To grieve and to dance (3:4b)

7.     To scatter and to gather (3:5a)

8.     To embrace and to turn away (3:5b)

9.     To search and to lose (3:6a)

10.     To keep and to throw away (3:6b)

11.     To tear and to mend (3:7a)

12.     To be quiet and to speak (3:7b)

13.     To love and to hate (3:8a)

14.     To wage war and to pursue peace (3:8b)

B.     The conclusions (3:9–14, 22)

1.     The ultimate truth (3:9–11, 14): God—and God alone—can separate time from eternity.

2.     The until-then truth (3:12–13, 22): Enjoy both your work and the fruits proceeding from it.

II.     Earthly Events from God’s Perspective (3:15–21)

A.     What God has done (3:15) : He has supervised all past actions.

B.     What God now does (3:18–21): He tests people so that they can see they are no better than animals.

C.     What God will do (3:16–17): He will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked.


Solomon continues his observations about life.

I.     The Wretched Things in This Life (4:1–8, 13–16)

A.     The people Solomon finds (4:1, 4–8)

1.     The oppressed poor (4:1)

2.     The selfish rich (4:4, 7–8)

3.     The lazy fool (4:5–6)

B.     The pessimism Solomon feels (4:2–3, 13–16)

1.     Concerning life and death (4:2–3)

a.     It is better to be dead than living (4:2) !

b.     It is best never to have been born (4:3) !

2.     Concerning prisoners and potentates (4:13–16)

a.     It is better to be a poor but wise youth with a prison record than to be a rich but foolish king (4:13–16a)!

b.     However, in the final analysis, it matters little who and what one is (4:16b).

II.     The Workable Things in This Life (4:9–12)

A.     Two are better than one (4:9–12a).

1.     If one falls, the other can help (4:10) .

2.     If one is cold, the other can provide warmth (4:11) .

3.     If one is attacked, the other can defend (4:12a).

B.     Three are better than two (4:12b): A triple-braided cord is not easily broken.


Solomon observes humanity.

I.     Human Words (5:1–7)

A.     Be cautious in making a vow (5:1–3).

B.     Be committed in keeping a vow (5:4–7).

II.     Human Wickedness (5:8–12)

A.     Our injustice (5:8–9): This can be seen from the poor person to the king on the throne.

B.     Our greed (5:10–12): The more people receive, the more they desire.

III.     Human Wretchedness (5:13–17)

A.     Our birth (5:15) : We enter this world with nothing.

B.     Our life (5:13–14): We may be financially reduced to nothing in this life.

C.     Our death (5:16) : We leave the world with nothing.

IV.     Human Wisdom (5:18–20): Once again Solomon advises us to enjoy our work and to be content with our life.


Solomon considers the source of joy.

I.     Fortune Does Not Bring Joy (6:1–2).

A.     Most wealthy people are unhappy with their possessions in life (6:2a).

B.     All wealthy people leave their possessions to others in death (6:2b).

II.     Family Does Not Bring Joy (6:3–5): A stillborn child is better off than the unhappy father of 100 children.

III.     Fullness of Years Does Not Bring Joy (6:6–12): This is true even if a person could live to observe his or her 2000th birthday!


Solomon considers the better things in life.

I.     The “Betters” (7:1–12, 19)

A.     A good reputation is better than fine perfume (7:1a).

B.     The day of death is better than the day of birth (7:1b).

C.     Funerals are better than festivals (7:2) .

D.     Sorrow is better than laughter (7:3–4).

E.     Criticism from a wise man is better than praise from a fool (7:5–6).

F.     Finishing is better than starting (7:8a).

G.     Patience is better than pride (7:8b).

H.     Wisdom is better than wealth (7:11–12).

I.     Wisdom is better than power (7:19) .

II.     The Bitter (7:26) : The snares of a prostitute are more bitter than death!

III.     The Bottom Line (7:13–18, 20–25, 27–29): Solomon concludes the following:

A.     What is crooked cannot be made straight (7:13) .

B.     Enjoy today, for tomorrow is uncertain (7:14) .

C.     Dont be too good or too wise (7:15–18).

D.     There is no one who has not sinned (7:20) .

E.     Dont eavesdrop (7:21–22).

F.     Wisdom without God is impossible (7:23–25, 27–29).


Solomon makes further observations about life.

I.     Concerning Understanding (8:1, 16–17)

A.     Wisdom brightens a persons appearance (8:1) .

B.     Wisdom comes only from God (8:16–17).

II.     Concerning Unquestioned Obedience (8:2–5): Obey the king, for his word is supreme.

III.     Concerning Uncertainty (8:6–8): No one can escape death.

IV.     Concerning Unfairness (8:9–14)

A.     Solomons frustration (8:9–11, 14)

1.     Why do the wicked often receive that which the righteous deserve (8:9–11)?

2.     Why do the righteous often receive that which the wicked deserve (8:14) ?

B.     Solomons realization (8:12–13): God will eventually punish the wicked!

V.     Concerning the Ultimate (8:15) : Be content, and enjoy life!


Solomon reflects on the things that control human destiny.

I.     The Infinite One (9:1) : The affairs of all people are in the hands of God.

II.     The Insanity (9:2–6, 11–12)

A.     Death ends every persons life (9:2–6).

1.     The living know they will die (9:5a).

2.     The dead know nothing at all (9:5b).

B.     Chance controls every persons life (9:11) .

1.     The swift do not always win the race (9:11a).

2.     The strong do not always win the battle (9:11b).

3.     The smart do not always acquire the wealth (9:11c).

C.     Calamity stalks every persons path (9:12) .

III.     The Instructions (9:7–10)

A.     Enjoy life with your wife (9:9) .

B.     Whatever you do, do well (9:10) .

IV.     The Illustration (9:13–18)

A.     The contents (9:13–15)

1.     The saving (9:13–15a): By his wisdom a poor but wise man once saved his town from a powerful king whose armies had surrounded it.

2.      The sorrow (9:15b): His noble achievements were soon forgotten because he was poor.

B.     The conclusion (9:16–18): Wisdom is still better than strength!


Solomon reflects on different kinds of people.

I.     The Individuals Described by Solomon (10:1–7, 12–18, 20)

A.     The wise (10:2a, 12a)

1.     Their hearts direct them to do right (10:2a).

2.     Their mouths give forth gracious words (10:12a).

B.     The foolish (10:2b–3, 6–7, 12b–15)

1.     Their hearts direct them to do evil (10:2b).

2.     The way they walk betrays them as fools (10:3) .

3.     They are often (tragically) given great authority (10:6–7).

4.     They are consumed by their own words (10:12b–14).

5.     They are exhausted by even the simplest tasks (10:15) .

C.     Those in authority (10:4–5, 16–17, 20)

1.     Stay calm, and dont quit if your boss is angry with you (10:4).

2.     Woe to the land whose king is a child (10:16) .

3.     Happy is the land whose king is a nobleman (10:17) .

4.     Dont make light of a king, even in your thoughts (10:20) .

D.     The lazy man (10:18) : He lets the roof leak and the rafters rot.

II.     The Injuries Warned about by Solomon (10:8–11): He cautions concerning:

A.     Digging a well, lest you fall into it (10:8a)

B.     Demolishing an old wall, lest a snake bite you (10:8b)

C.     Working a quarry, lest the stones crush you (10:9a)

D.     Chopping wood, lest the axe strike you (10:9b–10)

III.     The Insights Observed by Solomon (10:19)

A.     A party gives laughter (10:19a).

B.     Wine gives happiness (10:19b).

C.     Money gives everything (10:19c).


Solomon considers various rules for life.

I.     General Rules for All People (11:1–6)

A.     Be generous (11:1–2).

B.     Dont delay in matters of sowing and reaping (11:3–4).

C.     Dont try to understand the work of God (11:5) .

D.     Keep on sowing your seed (11:6) .

II.     Special Rules for Young People (11:7–10)

A.     Rejoice (11:7–9a): Enjoy your youth. Live life to the hilt.

B.     Remember (11:9b–10): Keep in mind that someday you must account to God for everything you do.


Solomon gives some concluding thoughts.

I.     The Command (12:1–8)

A.     What his readers are to do (12:1–2): They are to honor their Creator early in life.

B.     Why they are to do it (12:3–8): God desires the strength of his people when they are young, before old age reduces the body to a pitiful shell of its former days.

II.     The Collection (12:9–12)

A.     The information (12:9) : The Teacher collected and classified many proverbs.

B.     The instruction (12:10) : The gifted Teacher then taught the proverbs to his people.

III.     The Conclusion (12:13–14)

A.     What his readers are to do (12:13) : “Fear God and obey his commandments.”

B.     Why his readers are to do it (12:14) : “God will judge us for everything we do.”



[1]Willmington, H. L. (1999). The Outline Bible (Pr 31:30-Ec 12:14). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.

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